[A-List] Whither the war on drugs?
Michael.Keaney at mbs.fi
Wed Feb 27 03:02:17 MST 2002
US aid goes ahead despite failure to curb poppy crop
The Herald, 27 February 2002
THE United States has removed Afghanistan
from its proscribed list of major drug-producing
countries despite the fact that the UN says this
year's poppy harvest is likely to produce more
than 3000 tonnes of raw opium, the basic
ingredient of heroin.
President George W Bush admitted to
Congress that the country had "failed
demonstrably to make substantial
counter-narcotics efforts over the last 12
months", but waived a ban on economic
assistance because it was "vital to the national
interests of the US", to bolster the fledgling
regime in Kabul.
A plan is now being put together to offer Afghan
farmers cash compensation to plough the
bumper crop under before the traditional harvest
in May. US law forbids direct purchase of the
heroin base product.
Efforts are also to be made to offer law
enforcement help to countries bordering
Afghanistan to try to stem the flow of the drug via
Pakistan, Iran and central Asia to the West.
Rand Beers, the US assistant secretary of state
with responsibility for curbing the international
narcotics trade, said the main problems were
the lack of time to reach farmers in remote
areas and the fact that the major poppy fields
were located in the most lawless parts of
In 1999, the country produced almost
three-quarters of the world's heroin and 90% of
the drug sold on the streets of Europe.
The hardline Taliban regime banned poppy
cultivation in 2000, but took no action to seize
existing stockpiles or to disrupt the movement of
supplies across traditional trafficking routes.
Although the Taliban took no direct part in the
trade, it taxed growers and dealers. Osama bin
Laden's al Qaeda organisation also took a
percentage of the profits for acting as
middleman in a distribution network involving
Chechen mafia routes through Russia to the
A kilo of the sticky, greenish-black heroin base
sells for £500 in the bazaars of Peshawar and
Quetta in Pakistan.
Poor farmers in a land where average annual
income is less than £400 and life expectancy
peaks at 42 can make 100 times more for an
acre of poppies than for growing an acre of
wheat. Three years of drought and three
decades of war have increased their
desperation for a means of feeding their
Independent warlords have replaced the Taliban
in raking off a share of the take from the trade, a
UN official said yesterday.
"Persuading them to give up the financial power
heroin gives them will be a major hurdle in any
campaign to reconstruct Afghanistan's
agricultural economy," he said.
Full article at:
Mercuria Business School
michael.keaney at mbs.fi
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